Muhammad Abu-Nabbut

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Muhammad Abu-Nabbut
محمد أبو نبوت
Monarch Sultan Mustafa IV (1807-1808)
Sultan Mahmud II (1808-1839)
Governor of Gaza and Jaffa
In office
Preceded by Muhammad Abu Marraq
Succeeded by Mustafa Bey
Governor of Selanik and Diyarbakir
In office
Personal details
Nationality Ottoman
Religion Islam

Muhammad Abu Nabbut (Arabic: محمد أبو نبوت‎‎) was the governor of Jaffa and Gaza in the early 19th century on behalf of the Ottoman Empire. He reigned from 1807 to 1818.


Abu Nabbut started his military and political career as a mamluk ("slave soldier") in the courtyard of Jezzar Pasha, the governor of Acre. A few years after Jezzar's death in 1804, he was appointed by Jezzar's heir, Sulayman Pasha, as governor of the districts of Jaffa and Gaza.[1]

Abu-Nabbut possessed a similar character to Jezzar, becoming known for his ambitious construction and refurbishment projects in Jaffa and for his boundless cruelty as a ruler.[1] He was also known as a just ruler who strove to improve Jaffa and better its inhabitants. Under his rule, the population and economic conditions of Jaffa and Gaza improved substantially.[2]

A number of legends surrounded Abu-Nabbut including one concerning his name. Abu-Nabbut, meaning "Father of the Club" in Arabic, supposedly was attributed to him from his habit of roaming the streets of Jaffa with a club, beating anyone who disobeyed his orders.[1] The English traveller Charles Leonard Irby, who passed through Jaffa in 1817, observed that while his formal name was "Mohammed Aga", he was referred to as "Abou Nabout"; "the master of the mace or stick".[3] Another local Palestinian legend tells of how Abu-Nabbut was locked out of Jaffa after leaving the city to walk through the nearby orchards. When he demanded the gate be opened for him, the guard refused because he did not believe it was Abu-Nabbut waiting outside. After repeated calls, Abu-Nabbut was allowed entry. The next morning he summoned all of Jaffa's inhabitants and proclaimed "Cursed be the man, and cursed his father, who joins himself to a man of Jaffa." He ordered that this to be engraved on his well along the Jaffa Road.[4]

When Sulayman Pasha of Acre fell ill in 1818, Abu Nabbut apparently made moves to become his successor as governor of Acre. However, this did not suit Sulayman Pasha's influential financial advisor, Haim Farhi, who favoured his young protégé Abdullah Pasha, believing that Abdullah would be more easy to control. Farhi therefore convinced Sulayman Pasha in the summer of 1818 to move against Abu Nabbut. Abu Nabbut was hence removed from Jaffa through an internal coup. This earned Farhi the eternal enmity of Abu Nabbut, who after his removal from Jaffa went to Istanbul, "where he could intrigue" against Farhi.[5]

Between 1819 and 1827 Abu-Nabbut again served as a governor, first at Selanik, then at Diyarbakir.[6]

After inquiries in Jaffa in the 1870s, Clermont-Ganneau found that the tomb of "the legendary Abu Nabbut" was located near the Sebil Abu Nabbut in Jaffa.[7] This tomb survived at least until 1950,[8] but it has now disappeared.[9]


Mahmoudiya Mosque, built by Abu Nabbut in 1812

During his tenure as governor Abu-Nabbut was responsible for a large number of building projects in Jaffa, including the completion of the fortifications of the city, the renovation of the Great Mosque, the erection of two sabils (public fountains), and the construction of cotton and wool markets.[1][10]


The French sacking of the city after the Siege of Jaffa in 1799 proved the inadequacy of the city walls, and when the city was returned to Ottoman control in 1800, Turkish and British engineers began to rebuild the fortifications. This task was completed under Abu-Nabbut from 1810 and onwards. Abu Nabbut added a monumental eastern gate crowned with three cupolas.[11] The fortifications were specially designed to cope with European artillery and possessed thick walls, with substantial corner bastions, capable of supporting large cannons. Similar fortifications have survived at Acre. However, later in the eighteenth century the political situation had changed, and Abu-Nabbut's fortifications were no longer needed. By 1888 the dismantling process was complete and the moat was entirely filled in. Today, only two gateways and a short section of Abu-Nabbut's wall remains.[12]

Mahmoudiya Mosque[edit]

Sabil, or public fountain, in Jaffa, built by Abu Nabbut. Here the west face on old postcard from the British Mandate of Palestine-period.
Main article: Mahmoudiya Mosque

During his tenure as governor, in 1812, Abu-Nabbut ordered the construction of the Mahmoudiya Mosque which today is the largest mosque in Jaffa.[1]

Sabil Abu Nabbut[edit]

Main article: Sabil Abu Nabbut

Above the columns on the west side of the building is a plaque commemorating the construction of the sabil in 1236 H.[13]

Palestinian villages[edit]

The inhabitants of al-Jiyya reported that their village had been ruined at one point and then rebuilt by Aby Nabbut.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d e Al-Mahmudiyya Mosque Archnet Digital Library.
  2. ^ Vilnay, 2003, p. 208
  3. ^ Irby, 1852, p.116
  4. ^ Vilnay, 2003, p. 208
  5. ^ Philipp, 2001, p. 88, 151
  6. ^ Kana`an, 2001, note 44, p.139
  7. ^ Clermont-Ganneau, p.3, also cited in Petersen, 2002, p.171
  8. ^ Mayer, 1950, p.32. Cited in Petersen, 2002, p. 172
  9. ^ Petersen, 2002, p. 172
  10. ^ Kana`an, 1998. Cited in Petersen, 2002, p. 162
  11. ^ Tolkowsky, 1924, p.133. Cited in Petersen, 2002, p. 163
  12. ^ Petersen, 2002, p. 163
  13. ^ Petersen, 2002, p. 170-172
  14. ^ Khalidi, 1992, p.114